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Adams Trade Card Collection | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: Adams Trade Card Collection

Historical Note:

Trade cards, also known as advertising cards, were wildly popular collectibles in the latter half of the nineteenth century as consumer culture took over America. Advertising a huge variety of manufactured goods in bright chromolithographed colors, trade cards were produced by advertisers to encourage recognition of brand names and to stimulate demand for the products advertised. Though trade cards sometimes feature rather generic Victorian images of flowers or birds, these attractive pieces of ephemera often feature comic little vignettes with punchy slogans, or instructions for catchy games to be played using the card. Some are die-cut, and some have folding or moveable pieces--features that surely made great fun for their collectors. Trade cards were often issued in series to emphasize their collectible aspect, and this collection has many representatives from various series; for example, McLaughlin's Coffee "War Ship" series, or Arbuckle's "States" series.

Trade cards often contain a separate advertisement for the local seller of the product, usually on the verso of the card.

A huge variety of social and cultural topics are open for study using trade cards. Depictions of women and femininity, domesticity and the American home, advertising methods and consumerism, social mores, race relations, humor--all are made tangible in this type of American ephemera.

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